Imatges de pÓgina
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the giving us what makes us fo, that is not poffefs'd of all the fire and genius that characterises the man whom nature has cut out for this fort of life.

Let us not however forget to guard against fome faults into which a too free use of this doctrine may lead fome of the modern players in this ftile, by telling them that it is in general, in their deportment only, not in their smiling faces, that we expect to discover that gaiety and joyous difpofition, we wou'd have their parts inspire them with.

The French ftage affords many inftances of people becoming liable to this cenfure; but the natural gravity of our nation renders it fomewhat more rare among us: We are not, indeed, without inftances of people who exprefs rather too much of the merriment they intend us in their own faces, particularly at the new theatre: And we would advife thefe actors, by way of remedy, to attend the places we have in the former part of this work celebrated for the renown'd exploits perform'd in them by Mr. Machen. Every holliday furnishes the occafion of a play at one or other of these, and every play almost affords an inftance of this precious folly, that ought to put it out of countenance with any body elfe, in the person of a heroe, who makes a figure there under the name of Boftock. This gentleman is humble enough in his private vocation to walk before the chair of a lady at that end of the town; but when he affumes the bufkin he grows unmeasurably great, fwells to twice his ordinary fize, and like the priestess of the Delphic God, becomes another creature: But fuch is the joy of this fudden change of fortune, fuch

his fatisfaction in his own performance, that we have seen a fettled fmile upon his face thro' the whole part of Bajazet.

People of naturally grave countenances, whatever merit they may be poffefs'd of, are but very badly cut out for comedy; and on the contrary the player who has it in his intention to make us merry, has often the advantage of appearing the more and more comic, as he affects to be more and more ferious: It is not more rational

to fay to the tragic actor, Shed tears your felf if you wou'd draw any from me, than it is to admonish those in the comic ftyle, by telling them, if you wou'd have me laugh often, you must very feldom laugh your felf.

The player is never to lofe fight of this great point, that his private fentiments and character are to be hid behind thofe of the character he plays; he must remember that the perfon he reprefents, often diverts us with the things that he does or fays premeditately and of defign; and often alfo by thofe which drop from him accidentally and without attention: Thefe are frequently the most affecting inftances of the whole character, and in these the actor would take off all the effect, if he exprefs'd in his countenance a cunningness and joy at the confequence, which he knew wou'd attend them: The air of inattention with which thefe fort of pleasantries are conducted, is what gives them all their force; for a laugh upon the face of the actor is fufficient at any time to rob us of the whole beauty of them; and in the other cafe nothing is more certain than that a' thousand pleasantries wholly lofe their effect, as well on the ftage, as in private converfation, if the perfon from whom they come does

does not diffemble his intent to raise a laugh, and his hopes to fucceed in it.

CHA P. II.

No Man who has not naturally an elevated
Soul, will ever perform well the Part of a
Heroe upon the Stage..

WE

TE fhall not, we hope, be accused of giving the pompous name of Elevation of Soul in the title of this chapter, to that ridiculous and idle imagination that is found in certain modern tragedy players, who fhall be namelefs, who are fo infected with the enthusiasm of their profeffion, that they become princes and heroes for life, by perfonating fuch characters on the flage; who can by no means condescend to throw off their grandeur with their buskins, but will carry it in full force to make them the ridicule of the next company they fall into.

These people never receive a vifit from a familiar friend, but they perfwade themselves they are giving audience; nor mix among the deliberating parties of their company, but they fancy themselves affifting at a council of state. They fpeak to their domefticks, or if they have none, to the porter or coffee-boy, with all the folemnity of voice with which a Roman general delivers his orders; and if they pay a compliment to an author, who has caft them an advantageous part in his play, they do it with an air that tells him they imagine they are conferring a favour on him by accepting it, or giving him a reward for his merit.

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We flatter ourfelves alfo that no body will mifunderstand us fo far as to fuppofe we mean to give this lofty name to the arrogant opinion fome other gentlemen of the fame rank have conceived of their own confequence in the world: or to suppose an actor has an elevated foul, because he is mad enough to imagine, that great players are at least as eminent in the eye of reafon as great men; and would tell the world, if he dar'd, that it is almoft easier to be a heroe, than to reprefent one well upon the stage.

The vanity and pride of the former fet, tho' abundantly ridiculous, may be ufeful to them; and while it renders them contemptible among their familiars, may ferve to make them excellent in the eye of the public; as it will always keep up in them a fuitable turn of mind for the executing their parts to advantage. It will doubtless lead them into many disagreeable scrapes among their friends; but it will in return give them the means of claiming an uncommon share of applause upon the ftage; and by accuftoming themselves to play the kings and generals in their family, they will acquire a habit of doing it more naturally in their profeffion, than any man can, who only takes up his royalty or heroifm for the ufe of the prefent moment, or while it is requir'd of him in his part. Yet this habitude, however inforc'd, will at the utmost be only fufficient to influence their exterior figure and deportment; it will indeed throw an air of dignity and greatnefs into their mien and geftures, but it will never be able to give that noble pride, that elevaced grandeur to their expreffion, which is neceffary to the infpiring us with that generous transport with which we love to hear the fentiments of the

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tragic poet. It is poffible indeed that this fettled habit may give a man, who has a good figure and an eafy carriage from nature, all that dignity which we find afcribed by a very great writer, with an uncommon warmth, to the late Mr. Booth in his afcending his throne in the character of Pyrrhus; but it will never give to any inan the innate greatness, with which Mr. Quin pronounces the fentiments of Cato.

The high opinion alfo which many of our players have of their profeffion, may not be without its uses to them. This imaginary excellence in it may naturally be the occafion of their loving it more than they otherwife wou'd have done the player of this turn perhaps may owe the greatest part of his excellence on the stage to this very opinion; and wou'd never have taken half the pains he has done to excell in his profeffion, if he had thought less nobly of it.

The mind neceffarily takes an elevated turn from the exalted idea it forms of the objects it is converfant about; but there is befides this, another far nobler elevation of foul, which the actor in tragedy must fhew us he is poffefs'd of before he can rife to that applaufe, which fome of our present theatrical performers have found the way to deferve.

This confifts in a noble enthusiasm, produc'd from a paffion for every thing that bears the character of true greatnefs: This must be native and inherent in the man; and this is what we understand by the term elevation of foul. 'Tis this enthufiafm which diftinguishes the capital performers in tragedy, from thofe of a moderate hare of merit; and 'tis peculiarly by means of this valuable and rare qualification that fuch a

player

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